Modernisation to close eight Kent fire stations

Kent Fire and Rescue Service sign
Image caption The closure plans follow a three-year review of operations by Kent Fire and Rescue Service

Eight village fire stations in Kent are set to close under plans to modernise the county's fire service.

It follows a three-year review by Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KF&RS), which says the number of incidents it attends has dropped by 25% since 2005.

Compulsory redundancies have been ruled out under the plans which take into account a government funding cut of £12m over the next three years.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said closures would increase response times.

KF&RS, which began its review before the economic downturn, said it was redesigning its operations to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

It said some of the stations earmarked for closure were established in Victorian times to deal with risks such as mills or factories that have now closed while some are too near other stations.

Fire prevention work with residents and business had helped cut the number of fires and other incidents, it added.

As a result, the county now had eight fire engines more than it needed.

Eight stations staffed by part-time crews will close with another, at Hythe, losing its second engine.

Two new stations are to be built in New Ash Green and Herne Bay as well as three already planned for Ramsgate and the Medway towns.

KF&RS said that in future there would be a more flexible approach with engines stood down when demand was low or brought back into operation during busy periods such as dry summer weather.

New vehicles would be used such as 4x4s and quad bikes for incidents such as bin or grass fires or road accidents.

'Right locations'

"The county has changed beyond recognition since most stations were established and our investment in community safety has seen the number of calls we attend plummet by a quarter over the last five years," said chief executive Ann Millington.

"We have to make £12m savings over the next three years, but we needed to make these changes to the service anyway, regardless of budget cuts.

"Emergency cover is delivered on a county-wide basis, and to do that effectively we must have stations in the right locations."

The FBU said it was opposed to the proposals which were a bad move for the public.

"These are nothing more than front-line cuts," said Kent FBU secretary Mark Simmons.

"They will lead to an increase in the time it takes for fire engines and firefighters to get to incidents and fires within these villages.

"This isn't a betterment of fire cover."

The proposals will go out for public consultation until 16 January with Kent and Medway Fire Authority making the final decision in February.

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